SANEBUTDIFFERENT

May 1, 2016

Today I went out to buy a new Apple Magic Mouse 2, as the Magic Mouse 1 that came with my 2010 iMac started giving disconnect issues. I suspect it’s got something to do with the battery door being loose, but I can’t be sure. So how does the Magic Mouse 2 compare?

Build quality and function

Apple said they made the MM2 lighter and I can confirm it’s about 50% lighter than the MM1, which makes it much easier to use. The MM1 was a tad straining on the wrist due to the weight, being or feeling heavier than even the larger Razer mices like Naga Epic, because of the weight concentrated in the small size.

With a shallower click depth, the MM2 also felt more responsive than the MM1 as you don’t have to click as hard or long.

Another improvement touted by Apple is the optimized mouse feet. I’m not sure what that actually means but it looks and feels just slightly taller for higher lift off the surface so it doesn’t feel like you’re dragging the mouse around like what I felt the MM1 can be at times.

The sides and bottom of the MM2 is made from a smoother aluminium compared to the rougher brushed aluminium on the MM1, which was prone to scuff marks. I think this new one should be more resistant in that aspect.

No comments on the battery life yet, but I’m quite optimistic about the change to a built-in battery. The battery door was loose on the MM1, with some rattling and potentially the cause of the disconnects (?) when it got jiggled. Dirty battery contacts were another issue. Hopefully the specs on the fast charging hold up because I think it’s brilliant. No comment on the Lightning port being on the bottom, personally I don’t think it’s that much of an issue.

Software

What was extremely impressive about the MM2 was the effortless pairing via Lightning cable. The iMac recognized and paired the mouse instantly. No more waiting around and fiddling with the Bluetooth panes. Thank God!

With the MM2 you also get much faster tracking at the same System Preferences setting although you can probably do that with third-party utilities.

But as the salesperson at nubox pointed out and I verified online, the MM2 is only El Capitan compatible, which means you can’t use it on older Macs or Macs you haven’t updated. Well, Apple could at least have added support for the last one or two versions like Yosemite but Apple being Apple y’know.

One of the reasons I got the Magic Mouse 2 was because of the touch-specific functions built into OSX lately. For example, you can’t scroll Calendar app with a scroll wheel as it’s programmed to trigger on touch devices like the built-in Macbook trackpad or Magic Mouse. I don’t foresee Apple changing course anytime soon, so I went with Magic Mouse instead of Razer or Logitech. Razer Synapse on OSX is awful anyway, and has been for years. Besides that, even with horizontal scroll on the latest Razer Naga, you can’t smooth scroll with a single swipe like on the Magic Mouse.

As for third-party utilities, it seems that some like BetterTouchTool have support for MM2 while Magic Prefs doesn’t seem to. YMMV.

Value

At S$118 for the MM2, bundled with a Lightning cable, compared to no batteries/cable included with the S$98 MM1, it certainly is more expensive to buy but the Lightning cable itself retails for S$28 so essentially you’re only paying S$90 for the MM2 itself which isn’t too bad.

It feels much faster overall than the MM1 and flies now and I’d recommend this wholeheartedly if your MM1 has been giving you wrist or Bluetooth problems. As a new mouse or if your MM1 is still working fine, I’d say that it’s still a good buy. It’s much cheaper than the Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard, which makes an upgrade not as painful on your wallet. If you’ve been needing a spare Lightning cable (and sick of the knockoffs that only last 1 iOS version), that’s all the push you need.



May 26, 2015

Battling the bulge

The story started when I needed to replace the battery on my 17″ Early 2009 unibody Macbook Pro1For those interested, Apple lists the part as 661-5037 but it's more commonly known as the A1309.. The battery had started to swell, causing the bottom case to not stay in place. The battery life was about 1.5 hours (~6000mAh remaining versus the 12-13k on brand new Macs).

The hunt begins

My first stop was A. Lab at Changi City Point where I had good experience replacing a busted MagSafe 2 charger under AppleCare. It turns out that Apple had stopped producing the parts for my MBP, and that it would cost $386.75 + $130 labour. So, expensive and unavailable. Moving on.

I then looked at the Newertech Nupower battery from SimplyMac and contacted Patrick, who I know to be a nice guy even though I’ve only enquired and not bought from him so far. His reply was that the permit to bring in this particular battery wasn’t ready, which was disappointing. It would have cost $168 + $150 labour anyway, which is still a bit expensive for a 6-year-old Mac. Again, not even throwing money can fix this.

It was then that I found The Repair Hospital, seems rather reputable with multiple outlets, including their flagship at Suntec.

Affordable yet dubious

Based on the previous two quotes, I found the web store price of $235 quite attractive. I called to find out availability and it was in stock, great! Was quoted $215 for 6 month warranty, $253 for 1 year warranty, includes labour. Even cheaper —awesome, right? Also asked about replacement screws and rubber feet, was told no screws and $2 per foot.

When I went there, the price quoted was $205 for 6 months and $243 for 1 year. WHAT!!! I went along with it.

The person on the phone earlier said that repair could be done on the spot, but one of the staff attending tried to give me a form and tell me to collect another day, to which I insisted on immediate collection. Another colleague came to correct her about the repair time and printed another set of forms.

The form itself was highly dubious. It had a PDPA-related clause that says they are allowed to contact you for both performance of service and marketing research. Of course, based on Mark Cenite’s Media Law & Ethics class I knew this wouldn’t be valid. I also made them strike out the clause, although I don’t know how effective it would be because my info’s in their database already by that point.

Finally the repair was done, everything seemed to be in order. The original battery was returned to me. So at least that part was good. Battery was about 13000 mAh.

Seeing me inspect my bottom case which was hanging open due to only 3 screws left, the second staff indicated that they had screws available for $2 ea and rubber feet for $4 ea. I opted for the screws because they actually had functional value, was cheaper than the $5/screw from Apple and costs about the same as Amazon with shipping. The rubber foot was overpriced vs about $1 on Amazon and their original quote of $2 and didn’t do much anyway, so I didn’t get it (although $4 in context really isn’t that much).

I would say that the technician Esmond was really professional though, he helped me to glue the rubber foot attachment in place when I said it was out of alignment.

So is it worth going there for repairs?

Honestly I have very mixed feelings about The Repair Hospital.

On one hand, it is relatively cheap and available versus Apple. I don’t quite trust the SLS guys and DIY will be an issue regarding parts availability and shipping concerns. The technician does a decent job. The part they don’t keep in stock, but were able to bring in from the moment of the call (about 10am) and reached by 6pm. The repair if minor/fast can be done within the day or even on the spot.

On the other hand, I have a sea of red flags raised with the admin staff and communication. It seems that prices are not fixed AT ALL and the knowledge of the admin staff re: goods is really hit or miss.

I really recommend only going armed with research or if you’re generally tech-savvy. For non-geeks, I’d say if the price seems okay to you just go for it, even if there’s a possibility of it being even cheaper. I get the sense that this is a communication and training issue rather than an elaborate rip-off setup.


Addendum

Third-party batteries have been known to cause issues with throttling the CPU speed so when my clean install of Yosemite started freezing up I started to worry. But after investigation it was the Dropbox client which chokes up on my 100+ GB of data, causing beachballs everywhere.

When I called The Repair Hospital, the desk staff again gave me some lame excuses blah blah blah so I asked to speak with the technician, who was happy to help with diagnosis and also selling me a new SSD in case it was my Plextor. It saddens me whenever terrible service staff mar an otherwise good technical service.

I opened the bottom case and checked the battery, it looks like the original Apple one, printing and all. Perhaps it is a battery refill and not really a new OEM-type battery? Well it works, so who cares.

There are cheaper batteries available on Carousell and SLS, but in my case the 17″ 09 MBP battery is relatively rare. If you have a more common 13″ or 15″ you can consider those instead.

Notes:
  1. For those interested, Apple lists the part as 661-5037 but it's more commonly known as the A1309.


Apr 28, 2015

Recently, Jony Ive gave an interview on the Apple Watch at the Conde Nast International Luxury Conference where he expressed that the intention of the Apple Watch was not to compete with traditional luxury goods, or even watches for that matter. He alluded to the capabilities of the Apple Watch, that it was much more than just a watch, being capable of many communication capabilities.

Why then — as mentioned by the interviewer — do these luxury brands (especially watch brands) feel threatened?

Sure, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post, Apple is beginning to market its lineup as fashion products more so than electronics products. But my gut feeling is that it is the name of the Apple Watch that really puts the watch brands in alert mode.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Apple decided to name the product “iWrist”. An iWrist does everything the Apple Watch does — it syncs to your iPhone, it tracks fitness stats, it has some novel new messaging and communication capabilities, it gives you notifications. Oh and by the way, it also tells the time. You know, just like your iPhone has the time on the home screen. The iWrist isn’t a watch, it’s a wrist-mounted electronics gadget.

Why didn’t these brands worry about the iPhone (which also tells the time, among other things) before this new product release then? It’s precisely because the name “Apple Watch” indicates that the product is moving into the watch space to compete with existing players. Isn’t it amazing how the name makes a difference?

If you’re still not convinced that marketing and positioning play a big role in shaping people’s perceptions, here’s another thing to think about. Jony has said in the interview that his intention was never for the Apple Watch to compete with or replace the traditional watch, just that the wrist happens to be a good place for people to place information. Now imagine what if the iWrist was marketed as a complementary device to the watch instead? What if the iWrist was meant to live on your other wrist? (we do have two after all) Had Apple marketed the iWrist this way from the start, I’m sure that there would be much less alarm bells rung in the ranks of watchmakers.

Ohhh, it’s for the other wrist. Watches still have a place on people’s wrists as a fashion statement.

Maybe Apple is trying to make “dual-wristing” a thing for the future, like what they’ve done with iPhones in shaping the phone industry and people’s behaviours.

Personally, I think dual-wristing is something I’d like to see becoming the norm for the future, and that we can all learn the lesson that the name and positioning of a product does mould people’s perceptions in certain ways, be in posing a direct threat in an industry or in selling a way a product is meant to be used.



Mar 11, 2015

Watching the latest Apple keynote, I was heartened to see the new technological improvements and possibilities, but there are some questionable decisions and lack of fixes for existing problems.

Apple TV

It’s nice to see that Apple is continuing to push Apple TV, but its potential is still limited by the lack of proper App Store for Apple TV.

Content-wise, Singapore still doesn’t have first-class access to content providers like Netflix, Hulu and now HBO Now, which makes it pretty pointless in this market. Hell, we don’t even have a decent selection in iTunes/iBookstore.

And even if we could get these services in Singapore, would consumers actually pay for multiple video services when Popcorn Time exists? The market fragmentation is just too great.

Still, I’m sure this is a step forward for those in the US who like HBO shows to enjoy free-for-all access to their content.

ResearchKit

I’m all for ResearchKit. In theory. One of the benefits touted by Apple was the ability for people to see and monitor their personal stats even before the study is completed, and make lifestyle changes accordingly. However, one concern I have is that by doing so, it invalidates any sense of consistency or a “control group” factor because people are introducing new variables into the study. With the privacy and anonymity in place, it will be impossible (?) to contact the participants who show promise for follow-ups.

Furthermore, I am skeptical at the accuracy of technology today — one day as I was taking the bus, I was wondering how many of those jerks and bumps were actually contributing to the steps taken in HealthKit. I went home and looked up a study that shows there is still a margin of error introduced by vehicles, albeit small. I think the iPhone pedometer needs to be tested for accuracy in this aspect.

However, I find the tests that make use of voice-overs and accelerometer/pedometer are very creative and more apps should make use of the onboard sensors.

Macbook

Keyboard

Glad to see that the keyboard retains backlighting even though the goal is to shave thickness. What disturbs me is the design of the new arrow keys. What’s wrong with the old design!

Force Touch Trackpad

I’m excited for this one, because the diving board mechanism on my Early-2009 Macbook Pro is starting to fail and the click on the Magic Trackpad that depends on a hard surface is just bad. This technology just begs to be included in the next-gen iOS devices. Also, Magic Trackpad 2 anyone?

I’m disappointed to see the 15″ rMBP didn’t get the update. Are they planning to phase them out at some point like they did with the 17″ MBP?

Logic Board

I’d like to see someone try to 3rd-party upgrade this thing. Everything is soldered on now. Fanless is great, in theory. No more spinning up and telling the whole world you’re looking at gifs on Tumblr or playing Hearthstone.

Ports

Enough has been said about the port so far. I’m just surprised that there isn’t a Thunderbolt adapter anywhere (yet). Nor a new Cinema Display. Strictly speaking, this is a content consumption machine more than anything. I would also have liked to see a second USB-C port like how the 15″ rMBP has two Thunderbolt ports. I mean, the thickness is already catered for the first port…

Also glad to see MagSafe go, *if* it allows for 3rd-party battery packs and chargers to be made.

Screen

New resolution, new media queries for web developers? Perhaps 1152px width media queries will become more common. Definitely designers and developers need to start being more aware of @2x quality images for retina displays now that they’re really becoming mainstream. Fuzzy images hurt people’s eyes.

I hope they got rid of the terrible anti-reflective screen coating which peels easily. (But since they left it on the Retina iMac, I doubt they would remove it on this one. We’ll see.)

Apple Watch

Definitely shows promise in terms of new features and applications, but a major dealbreaker for me is the fact that it needs to be paired to an iPhone. I hate to take my iPhone running. I would never want to take my iPhone *and* Apple Watch running. So far, it seems like the Apple Watch can be used standalone for some features, though it’s not clear which. I’m hoping that the running/tracking stats is one of them.

Apple Watch also knows when you’ve been sitting too long. One day, chat apps will start ratting on your Last Moved instead of Last Seen. No more pretending. And it’ll know to alert your loved ones that you’re dead if you haven’t moved in over a day.

Analysis

More and more, Apple is making a shift to consumer and consumption-grade devices, eschewing the pro and prosumer market. With the Apple Watch moving into the fashion accessory market and Apple releasing a blinged-out Macbook, I joked that Apple is no longer in the computer industry but rather in the fashion accessory industry. This made more sense the more I thought about it. Apple products have become the must-have status symbol for coolness and style, which is why Apple would kill off the practicality of ports for the sleek sexiness of a thin device.

I’m all for thinner devices, but sometimes this obsession with thinness is just ridiculous. We can all look forward to PC clones following suit in this direction with thin laptops and really minimal ports.

And we’re all at fault here, really. Even in the case of the new Mac Pro and iMacs which have no real purpose being slim, Apple decided that they should be, because that’s what people want. We look at photos of offices and workspaces that proudly display these slim devices and decide, “yeah we want that”. But this comes at the sacrifice of everyday practicality and really, nobody loves adapters and external peripherals and they are not sexy at all. There comes a point where we need to make a stand that this direction is not what we want for our devices.

With the new Macbook, I feel that one big missed opportunity is the lack of a 4G modem. It’s 2015 — how much longer till 4G is built into laptops as a standard?! As anyone can tell you, public wifi is atrocious. This needs to happen and Apple needs to lead.

Finally, there are many people who go “meh” at the new Apple Macbook and Apple Watch, because technology companies like Intel and Apple have a tick-tock cycle of releases and if this is a ‘tock’, it’s pretty underwhelming for sure.

Nevertheless, I believe that we need to look at the potential of these new technologies and how they can lead to great new products. Just as people said “nobody wants an iPad” all those years ago, I’m sure these new products will mature into a great category-defining successes one day.



Mar 5, 2015

Following a story by Digiday on Facebook, I stumbled upon the excellent report by Craig Silverman about how fake news spreads online, especially in the face of rapid-publishing media outlets. You can download it here.

I highly recommend everyone who works in journalism, digital publishing or any related fields to read the entire report. But in the interest of providing a TL;DR version, here are some insights and actionable takeaways.

In dealing with breaking unverified content on the internet, many newsrooms rush to get the eyeballs and in the process make these mistakes:

Treating journalism as an act of pointing — reporting that this rumour is what’s out there now, instead of reporting verified truths. By reporting like this, they are giving the rumour credibility via the brand, spreading misinformation. Media outlets also points to one another as their source and confirmation, so one false report sets off a chain reaction of more false reports.

Lack of follow-up on false reports — newsrooms often just grab eyeballs and move on to the next story, leaving false reports in the archive un-updated.

Declarative headlines on stories with unverified claims — headlines declare a statement or use a question like “Did….happen?” but use hedging words like “reportedly”, “claim”, “purportedly” in the story. This misleads and confuses readers, especially when people scan headlines on their news feed without clicking into the story.

Observations:

Stories get more shares in the unverified rumour stage than when it has been confirmed, contributing to newsrooms’ temptation of quick and dirty reporting

Fake news articles generate more shares and social interactions than debunking articles. It took 10 large UK news websites to debunk a single fake news article. 60k shares on fake news, 60k shares total on all the debunking stories.

Strategies for newsrooms:

Newsrooms need a standard operating procedure for unconfirmed stories — workflows, choice of language/words, special website templates and headline conventions to clearly show that it is not verified.

Use SEO, clickable headlines and other traffic-generating tactics to debunk fake stories because speed and efficiency is key in fighting misinformation here. Fight fire with fire.

When a story is verified to be false, putting an “(UPDATE)” in the headline is not enough and even more damaging in spreading falsity.

Beware of cognitive challenges — inspirational and heartwarming stories e.g. sweaters for penguins are hard to debunk because people engage in “wishful thinking” and hope for it to be true. Emotions > Facts, people may not respond well.

Debunk the idea, not the person.

Be transparent in debunking — show how you found the story, why you suspect it’s not true, the methods used to find the facts.

Be very skeptical about stories and use fact-checking tools to back up.

Avoid double-hedging —

“Wednesday Apple Rumors: Apple May Be Ready to Buy Path”

Report: Possible audio tape of Michael Brown shooting”

Case study: False rumour that Durex is launching a pumpkin spice condom

Quartz contacted Durex’s PR firm, which had no comment.

Quartz broke the story saying “Durex will neither confirm or deny the pumpkin spice condom.”

Elite Daily, Uproxx, PR Newser picked up and reported.

BuzzFeed published story with confirmed denial from Durex.

Quartz updated their story.

Case study takeaways:

Update stories if the story has been proven false.

How to find rumours:

Monitor Twitter for keywords like “unverified”, “unconfirmed”, “rumour”.

Monitor RSS feeds of known rumour report sites e.g. Gawker Antiviral, snopes.com, Urban Legends

Set up Google Alerts for “rumor patrol”, “unverified” etc

Follow Twitter accounts of @Hoaxolizer, @DoubtFulNews, @SkepNet

Fact-checking/rumour debunking websites & tools:

http://www.emergent.info/

http://factually.gizmodo.com/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/category/hoaxes/

http://doubtfulnews.com/

http://antiviral.gawker.com/



Feb 28, 2015

Background

I’ve been helping out with the Singapore Press Club website, and recently I decided to do a search just to see the rankings. What I found instead was that the site URL was being abused by a company on their Google Plus page. My subsequent tests and findings made me facepalm over the decisions that Google took when building the Plus platform.

Google should not have linked Plus to Search results, especially without being verified

spc-gplus.001

Not only did Google Search associate the website with the Google Plus page directly in-line, it even blew up the address and map on the sidebar. I’ll admit that this can be somewhat useful (when it’s legit), but this scenario illustrates what happens when things aren’t.

spc-gplus.002

Any entity without an existing Plus page is vulnerable to getting their search results hijacked.

How did this happen? Simply because we didn’t have a Google Plus page first, and they beat us to it by putting the URL. I don’t actively use Google Plus, and I assume that many brands and businesses focus on Facebook and Twitter rather than Google Plus for their social strategy right now. This means that any entity without an existing Plus page is vulnerable to the same situation of getting their search results hijacked.

But wait a minute you say, there must be some forms of checks and balances.

spc-gplus.004

spc-gplus.005

Unverified URLs on Pages will still be presented by Google Search as legit.

Basically, anyone can add any URL that they want on their Google Plus page. In my test page I’ve linked the Coca-Cola website and it accepted just like that. Of course, you can see that the Coca-Cola page has been verified because of the ticks. Verification of URL involves putting a link on your website, similar to how it’s done for Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools.

The thing is, the rogue company’s Plus page with our URL wasn’t verified, and still it was treated as legit and presented to search users! IMO, Google really dropped the ball on this one.

It’s not easy to report abuse on Google Plus

On the Plus page, there’s a bunch of icons for review, sharing and stuff like that, but nowhere was there a Report Abuse link. The closest thing I could find was the generic Feedback link in the dropdown menu, which was for general feedback and not for reporting page-specific abuse.

With some work, I was able to find the page to report impersonation. However, the burden of proving legitimacy lies on the complainant, with official documentation needed. I suppose they could ask for these upfront when creating the page, but that’d be a royal pain and I understand why they wouldn’t. Still, there must be a better way to do this.

Another pain point is perhaps for startups and informal things like FYP campaigns where they don’t have proper paperwork. How then can they prove their legitimacy? And notice that the form basically forces you to have a Plus page just to complain that somebody is impersonating them.

spc-gplus.008

Google should not just allow anyone to own the page

The last straw is when I poked around Plus and tried to create a “Storefront”-type Page, where you can select an address for your page. Thinking I wanted to create a Plus page for The Nanyang Chronicle, I keyed in the address for Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

Just selecting the address made me the owner of the Page.

spc-gplus.006

The checkbox is all that stands between you and creating a page — Google basically just gives you a moral checkpoint to consider if you really want to do something malicious.

What’s more, I didn’t want to create a WKWSCI page, but just selecting the address led me to become the owner of the WKWSCI page.

spc-gplus.007

At least here they require a physically-mailed code in order to verify and edit the details on the page, but the fact is that the ownership has already gone to someone else, in this case me, when I have no right to own it. That’s like locking the stable after the horse has fled.

Closing Thoughts

Even if your brand or business has no intention of using Google Plus actively, it now seems like a requirement to get a page, for defensive purposes. And that’s just absurd.

Please feel free to share any thoughts or suggestions in the comments below as to what Google can do to fix this.



Dec 12, 2012

Today when I tried to open iPhoto, it kept giving the error “iPhoto cannot be opened because of a problem.” and “Check with the developer to make sure iPhoto works with this version of OS X.”

Basically, nothing worked. I updated to the latest version through Mac App Store, repaired disk permissions, reinstalled iLife.

iPhoto_NyxAudioAnalysis

Looking deeper into the error log, I found the cause of the error to be NyxAudioAnalysis, one of the iLife plugins. As others have recommended on forums, the best way to fix it is to grab a working copy and replace it.

It’s a good thing I have about a year’s worth of backups on my Time Capsule to fall back on. Replacing the files at /Library/Frameworks/NyxAudioanalysis.framework worked like a charm.

For those who need a working copy, download NyxAudioAnalysis.framework here.

(I do not claim copyright or any credit for the file. I will not be responsible for any data loss if you use this file.)

EDIT: After checking my Google Analytics, I realized that I was being linked to on StackExchange, Apple Support Community and a few smaller forums. As in, I actually helped somebody out! :’) Three years after I posted, no less.

So even though I was nuking all my old posts, I figured I should keep them on the new site if I think they can still help someone.

stackexchange

appleforum

appleforum2